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C-Suite shuns peers for professionals

As the Covid-19 pandemic places unprecedented demand on the global economy, businesses are increasingly turning away from their board and peers when it comes to advice and thought leadership around business strategy, instead turning to external expertise from professional services advisors.

Global research from strategic B2B thought leadership specialists, Grist, suggests that the C-suite now value the input of advisory firms and individuals over their peers when making key business decisions, with business leaders saying they have looked to external expertise and thought leadership to inform critical business thinking during the pandemic.

The findings, taken from the bi-annual Grist ‘The Value of B2B Thought Leadership’ survey, which canvassed the opinion of 525 decision makers at major organisations across the globe, shows a significant shift in business trends in the wake of the pandemic. Some 44% of C-suite respondents this year said they were keen to receive insight and guidance from advisory firms compared to 34% in 2018. Meanwhile, industry peers completely dropped out of the top three sources of advice for the C-suite, with just 33% of C-suite respondents valuing their colleagues’ opinions, down from 48% in 2018 and, replaced by independent industry experts as the most valued source of insight and guidance.

Whilst leaders are now more open than ever to professional support, the findings also show that potential advisors are required to demonstrate their expertise and value in order to be successful in the selection process, with as many as 91% of senior executives revealing that thought leadership is either critical or important to their decision-making when it comes to appointing an advisor.

The content of this thought leadership has also shifted over the past two years, with the report highlighting that due to the uncertainty and challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, business executives are now seeking much more short-term advice and support to navigate the unprecedented and often unpredictable nature of the challenges they face.

Previous thought leadership content was largely focused on long-term trends and the future of industries but the attention of the C-suite has now shifted to the near term with half (49%) wanting insight into the near future - the next three to 12 months – compared to just one in five (22%) seeking content about the mid or long-term future – one year and beyond.

In addition, the top three characteristics of thought leadership content sought by businesses were revealed to be forward-thinking (35%), action-orientated (32%) and fresh-thinking (32%). C-suite respondents also explained they are now looking for more engaging formats of thought leadership from potential advisors including video, presentations and online events, to support their decision-making process.

Managing Director at Grist, Andrew Rogerson, said: “With the coronavirus pandemic affecting businesses all around the world, the value of external support is rising, which could be due to internal teams focusing on ensuring business as usual can continue where possible.

“With advisory firms climbing into the top three sources of insight for the C-suite for the first time and senior executives reading more thought leadership now than ever before, advisors need to show their worth at a time when demand for their services is at an all-time high.

“Not producing thought leadership simply isn’t an option. What advisors need to do now is think about how they can make their thought leadership different and better and utilise this to effectively meet the needs of prospective clients.”

Commenting on the survey findings showing leaders are looking for short-term trends and insight, Global Editorial Director at McKinsey & Company, Lucia Rahilly, said: “We were initially inundated with requests to produce content responding to the pandemic, but we paused to develop a thoughtful framing that would have real lasting value for our clients. We’re still using those early frameworks now, which helps clients balance managing short-term issues with positioning themselves competitively for the next normal.”

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